Mixed metals in bathroom: How to work with different finishes

March 16, 2010 at midnight
Updated March 15, 2010 at 10:16 p.m.

The rule for bathroom decorating has always been to coordinate finishes. But sometimes breaking the rules creates something unique and much more interesting.

That's certainly the case with bathroom fixture finishes.

Today's homeowner has a wide array of finishes to choose from when searching for faucets, cabinet hardware and towel bars. But can they be mixed effectively?

With planning, mixing finishes is not only possible, but great looking too.

Coordinated fixtures

To complement the finishes, it's helpful to find coordinating elements that will play against the two finishes. For instance, in this bathroom, the shiny porcelain bathtub, toilet and sink fixtures play against the matte finish tile and satin stainless tile inset into the shower and backsplash of the sink. Rather than blending in, which is what satin finish plumbing fixtures would have done, the sparkle of the polished bath fixtures pops and makes a dynamic statement in the room.

Floor tiles with soft satin steel buttons at each corner bring the backsplash and shower accent tiles together for a cohesive look that unifies the whole room.

Alternating between the satin design elements of the backsplash and shower inset tiles, cabinet hardware, and light fixture and polish of the bathroom plumbing fixtures gives the bathroom a certain balance that keeps the room from feeling bland and making the fixtures blend into the background.

The bright chrome finish also adds life to the room.

Had the fixture finishes been satin, the bathroom would have missed some important design zip that gives this bathroom standout appeal.

How to mix finishes

Ordinarily, mixing finishes is difficult to do. But when a secondary element, in this case, the backsplash and tile inset, are added in, the look goes from good to incredible - and it's this secondary element that unifies the two different finishes.

If you would like to mix finishes, look for a lighting fixture or other decorative element that has a mix of colors to help bring the look together.

Another way to mix and match is to keep all the plumbing fixtures in the same finish, such as polished nickel, and then select lighting and cabinet hardware in a satin finish.

It's also possible to mix two distinct finishes, and when it's done right the look is upscale and uniquely fresh. However, when more than two finishes are introduced the look becomes distracting and disjointed.

Different colors

But what if the finishes aren't in the same color family? Is it possible to mix different colored finishes such as bronze and nickel?

It is if you have a third unifying element, such as tiles or wallpaper that reference both colors.

Another alternative is to create a visual focal point by selecting a unique finish for a stand-out fixture, such as a tall lavatory faucet for a vessel bowl sink. In this instance, both the sink and the faucet become much more noticeable than if the faucet matched the finish of the rest of the plumbing fixtures.

The faucet would look especially good if it were a completely different color finish than the remaining plumbing fixtures.

It's not written in stone that fixtures must match - and sometimes it looks better when they don't.

So, be experimental and try some bathroom daring by mixing finishes.

Kathryn Weber is a home and decorating columnist and publishes the Red Lotus Letter feng shui ezine. For more information or questions, e-mail Kathryn@kathryn-weber.com or write to her at P.O. Box 531, Cuero, Texas 77954. Please include your e-mail address or a SASE for a reply.



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